Samsung is recalling all of its new Galaxy Note7 smartphones following at least 35 incidents of battery explosions or fires around the globe. The phones, which went on sale Aug. 19 in the United States, are the company’s premier flagship handsets, incorporating a 5.7-inch quad HD dual-edge Super AMOLED touch-screen display and a pen stylus that lets users add drawings and handwritten text to images, documents and more.
The consumer electronics company announced a global recall of all of its Galaxy Note7 large smartphones that have been sold so far and that are in distribution channels in a Sept. 2 statement.
“Samsung is committed to producing the highest quality products and we take every incident report from our valued customers very seriously,” the company said. “In response to recently reported cases of the new Galaxy Note7, we conducted a thorough investigation and found a battery cell issue.”
As of Sept. 1, “there have been 35 cases [of battery fires or explosions] that have been reported globally and we are currently conducting a thorough inspection with our suppliers to identify possible affected batteries in the market. However, because our customers’ safety is an absolute priority at Samsung, we have stopped sales of the Galaxy Note7.”
Samsung said it will “voluntarily replace” Note7 handsets for all customers who already have them with a new Note7 device over the coming weeks. “We acknowledge the inconvenience this may cause in the market, but this is to ensure that Samsung continues to deliver the highest quality products to our customers. We are working closely with our partners to ensure the replacement experience is as convenient and efficient as possible.”
Samsung did not respond immediately to several eWEEK inquiries for more information about the recall, including an estimate of how many Note7 smartphones are in the hands of consumers around the world and how many are in stores or warehouses waiting to be sold. The company also did not give additional details about the “battery cell issue” that led to the recall.
The Note7 battery problems came to light Aug. 31 when Samsung moved to halt shipments of the phones after battery explosion and reports were first received in Korea, according to an earlier eWEEK story. Samsung told eWEEK initially that it was looking into the reports it had received and was “conducting a thorough inspection” of the phones and batteries. “We will share the findings as soon as possible,” the company said in its statement.
It is not known if there have been any incidents of battery explosions or fires in Note7 handsets in other countries, including the United States.
Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, told eWEEK that Samsung’s move to quickly recall and replace the phones is the right call.
“Samsung should be applauded for moving so decisively to halt sales,” said King. “It’s far better to move quickly, fix the problem and suffer a short-term loss of sales than to dither and delay, and thus risk a significant injury to the company’s reputation and brand.”
The recall “is obviously a significant and likely costly disappointment” for the company, wrote King. “No company likes recalls but they’re especially painful when they impact flagship products, like the Note7.”
Tuong H. Nguyen, an analyst with Gartner, agreed that Samsung acted correctly in ordering the recall swiftly, but added that the battery problems could become a lingering concern with consumers.
“It’s too early to tell how widespread of an issue this is,” wrote Nguyen, but “this potentially has a longer term impact on their brand image. For example, whether it’s 3 months or 3 years from now, will I, as a consumer, be reluctant to buy a Samsung phone because I remember this? Or will I not even remember it, or dismiss it as a one-off, or overblown issue?”
In addition, since the Note7 is a flagship phone for Samsung, consumers could also worry about future quality concerns, he said. “As a consumer, you expect high-end stuff to be high-quality and defect-free because that’s what you’re paying for. If this is happening on the high-end, what should I, as a consumer, think about the other products? I’m not saying this line of thinking is validation in itself, but this is a potential impact because it’s a plausible line of thinking for average consumers.”
Since Samsung is the world’s leading smartphone vendor by sales, the company “can’t blame third-party shoddy products for this [problem],” said Nguyen. “It’s 100 percent on them. Maybe that’s why they were quick to get on top of this situation.”
Samsung Recalls All Galaxy Note7 Phones Over Battery Fires
An Aug. 31 report by The Wall Street Journal said that Samsung has shipped some 2.5 million Galaxy Note7 phones since their Aug. 19 launch.
The reports of the Note7 battery fires come at a precarious time for Samsung, which in July reported its highest operating profit in two years in the second quarter of 2016, posting a $7.19 billion profit (8.14 trillion Korean Won, KRW), according to an earlier eWEEK story. That was an 18 percent increase from the 6.9 trillion KRW posted a year ago.
That was the highest quarterly operating profit posted by the company since it brought in 8.49 trillion KRW in the first quarter of 2014 and brought some good news to the world’s largest smartphone maker, which had been struggling with some tough earnings reports over the last several years as it battled successful global sales challenges from rival smartphone makers including Apple and Chinese upstarts such as Huawei.
Samsung’s Q2 revenue reached $45 billion (50.94 trillion KRW), up from the 48.54 trillion KRW posted in the same quarter a year ago, the story reported. Revenue in the mobile division, which includes smartphones, rose to 26.56 trillion KRW from 26.06 trillion KRW a year ago. In the company’s mobile division, operating profit rose to $3.82 billion (4.32 trillion KRW), which was up 57 percent from the 2.76 trillion KRW brought in the same quarter in 2015.
The latest Note7 phablet is slimmer and more rounded compared with the previous version, the Note5, which debuted in August 2015. The latest device takes many of its features from the company’s latest S7 and S7 Edge smartphones, which were released in March.
Highlighting the Note7 is a 5.7-inch quad HD dual-edge Super AMOLED touch-screen display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 octa-core 64-bit processor, 4GB of LPDDR4 memory, 64GB of onboard storage and a microSD slot for additional storage via memory cards up to 256GB. The phone runs on the Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow operating system and includes all-new iris scanning capabilities, a much-improved integrated S Pen stylus, and a first-ever “Secure Folder” feature for important documents and content.
In July, Samsung was faced with claims that a small number of Galaxy S7 Active rugged smartphones leaked when submerged in water, which eventually caused the company to make a correction on its assembly lines to fix the problem, according to an earlier eWEEK story. The company confirmed and corrected the issue after the leakage was reported by consumer product testing organization Consumer Reports after it tested two Galaxy S7 Active handsets and both failed water-submersion tests.